IRAQ – Government allocates $100 billion for post-IS reconstruction, but will Christians be welcomed back?
The Iraqi government has unveiled a 10-year, $100 billion plan to reconstruct the country following the recapture of areas controlled by Islamic State (IS). Significant funds are expected to be allocated to Mosul and other devastated towns in the Nineveh Plains, the historic heartland of Christianity in Iraq. However, government officials have admitted that they will also need to eradicate the ideology of IS.
A member of the Nineveh Council told journalists that any plan must eliminate “ideological extremism from the culture of the people of Mosul, who have been living for three years with IS' inflammatory rhetoric, and [prevent] the emergence of a new generation … inspired by the culture of hate”. A spokesman for Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s office stated that it will be necessary to “instil the concept of coexistence and shared living between the different spectrums and ethnicities of the city”.
Many of the Christians who fled the region in 2014 remain deeply sceptical of claims that they will ever be able to return safely, recounting how their Muslim former neighbours helped evict them and destroyed or commandeered their homes.
From Al Monitor here
TAJIKISTAN – Secret police raid church service and rip Bibles out of congregation’s hands
Secret police raided a church service in Dushanbe, Tajikistan’s capital, on Sunday 11 June and carried off Bibles and other Christian literature. Officers stopped the congregation from leaving and noted down their personal details, before forcibly taking away literature – police even “pulled books out of the hands of believers”. Police are now threatening prosecutions as the church is not registered with authorities; the government of Tajikistan imposes tight restrictions on all religious groups.
Bakhrom Kholmatov, a church pastor from Khujand who was arrested in May and investigated for “extremism” for being in possession of Christian literature, is expected to face trial imminently. He has been imprisoned since his arrest and state prosecutors are currently refusing to confirm what crime he will be tried for.
From Forum 18 here
NIGERIA – Boko Haram leader: There can never be peace between Muslims and Christians
The leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, has said in a newly-released video that Muslims and Christians cannot coexist. He countered a Muslim cleric’s criticism of Boko Haram’s attacks on Christians by stating “the Quran has categorised people into three; there are the devout, there are infidels and there are hypocrites … there is Christianity and there is Islam … let them [Christians] all convert to Islam then we can live together”.
Since its inception, Boko Haram has specifically targeted Christians, but in August 2016 Shekau’s predecessor announced that the group would focus its violence against believers, who were referred to as “the citizens of the cross”.
From Global Christian News here
PAKISTAN – Christian bicycle mechanic arrested for “blasphemy” after refusing Muslim “holy man” discount
Ashfaq Masih, a Christian bicycle mechanic from Lahore, has been arrested by police after being accused of “blasphemy”. After Ashfaq had repaired a local Muslim man’s bicycle, the man demanded a discount, claiming that he was a Sadhu – a term for a “holy man”, usually associated with Hinduism. Ashfaq refused and said that he did not follow anyone other than Jesus. A crowd gathered and one of them accused Ashfaq of “blasphemy” and called police, who arrested Ashfaq and officially registered a case against him on 15 June.
In May, a Christian from Rawalpindi was sentenced to life imprisonment for “blasphemy”, despite lawyers stating that there was “no concrete evidence” against him. This latest arrest appears to be another case of Pakistan’s infamous “blasphemy” laws being used to settle personal grudges against the vulnerable Christian minority.
From CLAAS here